As stocks of lots of cars decline, sales deteriorate


A year ago, Ford Motor Co. dealer Rhett Ricart had a lot of cars and almost no customers. This year he has a lot of customers and almost no cars.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 40 years or so in the automotive business,” said Ricart, who also sells Nissan Motor Co. and other brands at its Columbus dealership. “The Ford F-Series is sorely lacking. Everything is. I don’t care if it’s imports, domestic cars or luxury cars, they all are.”

The global semiconductor shortage that has hampered global auto production this year leaves showrooms with few models to showcase, just as US consumers breaking free from pandemic restrictions are hungry for new wheels.

“People are emotional right now about buying vehicles because they’ve been locked in the house for a year,” Ricart said.

With inventory dwindling over the past three months, auto sales in the United States have deteriorated. From an annual rate close to the record of 18.6 million vehicles in April, sales slowed to a rate of 17.1 million in May and fell to 15.7 million in June, estimates Emmanuel Rosner, analyst at Deutsche Bank.

Automakers, which are expected to report second-quarter sales on Thursday, say the inventory crunch is approaching bottom and expect the flow of essential chips to increase in the second half of the year.

But that’s far from certain, and some analysts say dealer lots won’t be fully restocked until 2023.

“Inventory is history,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for AutoTrader, a unit of researcher Cox Automotive. “The summer is going to be very tight on inventory and that should slow down sales.”

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